Wednesday, October 28, 2020
COVID-19 has hit residents of nursing homes hard. But it’s also hit hard those with dementia. Dementia deaths rise during the summer of COVID, leading to concern was published recently in The Conversation. The article opens with this sobering observation
Deaths from dementia during the summer of 2020 are nearly 20% higher than the number of dementia-related deaths during that time in previous years, and experts don’t yet know why. An estimated 61,000 people have died from dementia, which is 11,000 more than usual within that period.
“There’s something wrong, there’s something going on and it needs to be sorted out,” Robert Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a recent interview with Politico. “This is highly unusual.”
The author analyzes the four factors that may have played a role in the deaths of these individuals. Those include social isolation (“[s]ocial isolation, which essentially is little or no contact with others, is the last thing seniors with dementia need. But it’s what many have received, as caregivers are forced to limit visits during the pandemic”), caregiver burnout (“during COVID-19, caregivers have been isolated too. What help they had from the outside is now probably gone. Burnout becomes more likely”), decreased access to medical care (“[f]or dementia patients, accessing care may even be more problematic. Telemedicine, often an option for other patients, may not be manageable for those with dementia”), and staying home or using the health care offered by the facility, when they’ve decided the risk of leaving the house is greater than the medical issue (“a good example of something we doctors call goal-concordant care: when doctors understand a patient’s health goals, and then provide them with the best they can within the scope of those goals”).
The author concludes with some advice: check on the folks with dementia whom you know, check in on the caregiver…and be a good listener, and talk to your family about your wishes if this becomes your future.
Thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn for sending the link to this article.